Dr. Paul Landsbergis, of the SUNY Downstate Medical Center School of Public Health, was the lead author of an editorial published in the March 2018 issue of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) on “The Key Role of Work in Population Health Inequities.”
The editorial describes various economic, social, and political processes that are key to understanding the limited inclusion of work in health inequities research. Of central importance has been the growing power inequity between corporations and working people and their representatives (labor unions). Weaker unions have had less power to lobby for adequate occupational health regulations, for enforcement of regulations, for funding for occupational health research, education, surveillance and enforcement, or to bargain for or legislate access to data.
The editorial also describes a 6-hour Work and Health Equity curriculum for undergraduate and graduate public health students, available for free download. The curriculum discusses the intersection of work and working conditions with race, ethnicity, immigration status, income and gender and their effects on safety and health; and how unequal power in the workplace and society create health inequities. For example, vulnerable groups are disproportionately employed in hazardous jobs, face greater workplace injustice (discrimination, harassment, and bullying), face more precarious and stressful jobs in the global economy, have less protection from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), are less likely to be unionized, and face greater barriers to health care, legal and social programs: However, the curriculum (and editorial) also describe many current efforts to overcome power inequities, and to improve working and employment conditions and thus reduce health inequities.
The editorial was a commentary on a longer article by Ahonen et al. titled “Work as an Inclusive Part of Population Health Inequities Research and Prevention” in the March issue of AJPH, and one of five articles and commentaries on occupational health and occupational health inequities in the March issue. The lead authors of those five articles and commentaries were interviewed by the journal’s editor, Dr. Alfredo Morabia, for the AJPH Podcast: “Work as a Social Determinant of Health.” (Dr. Landsbergis’ portion of the podcast is from 43:40 to 47:30.)
Dr. Landsbergis is an associate professor in the department of environmental and occupational health sciences, State University of New York (SUNY) School of Public Health. Joining him on the editorial were occupational health researchers and educators from seven other public health institutions.